Donor Mother Shares Her Experience with Donation and Correspondence

Donor Mother Shares Her Experience with Donation and Correspondence

Over the years, Carol from Sunrise Beach, MO has generously volunteered several times to share her experience as the mother of a donor. She tells a powerful story about her son Mark who became a cornea donor in 2010. Her son’s heroic decision to donate impacted the lives of two cornea recipients as well as Carol and the rest of Mark’s family. Carol tells of the therapeutic effects of knowing her son has helped others, including how she has corresponded with the recipients. She encourages others to consider donation and correspondence because it changes lives for the better.

Carol most recently spoke at the June 2014 Saving Sight Board of Directors meeting and Lions L.E.A.D. event, so we thought it appropriate to re-share the web article from 2011 so she and Mark can continue to have a positive impact on others.

When someone loses a loved one, it’s difficult to find the good in such a heartbreaking situation. However, for many families, eye, organ, and tissue donation has given them a sense of hope. And when those families hear from their loved one’s recipients, it’s particularly rewarding.

In 2010, Carol lost her 30-year-old son, Mark. Unbeknownst to the family, Mark had made the pledge to become an eye donor through Missouri’s first-person consent registry – a choice that didn’t surprise Carol.

“Mark was absolutely the most loving person that we know in our family,” she said. “He cared very much about his family – about everybody. He didn’t know a stranger. Mark was never judgmental, gave everybody a fair chance, and always tried to help the underdog.”

As Carol and her family moved through the grieving process, they received a letter from Saving Sight informing them that Mark’s corneas had been provided to two recipients in California. Carol wrote the recipients, introducing them to her son, and soon received letters back from both individuals. One recipient in particular struck a chord with Carol, and the two began corresponding frequently.

“I can’t say enough about how his words have helped me,” said Carol. “This man just amazes me. Even in his last letter, he said, ‘Mark and I had our stitches removed and the good doctor says our vision continues to improve. We are a good fit. There was a moment or two I did feel Mark was there.’ He couldn’t have said anything better to me.”

The recipient/donor family correspondence has not only helped in the healing process for Mark’s direct family, but for his church family as well. Carol has read letters from Mark’s cornea recipient to fellow church members, helping them to find hope in desperate situations and encouraging them to follow Mark’s lead by pledging to become eye, organ, and tissue donors through Missouri’s donor registry.

For Carol, Saving Sight’s correspondence program has made a difference for her family, and therefore, she urges donor families and recipients alike to consider writing their own letters.

“I know Mark is living through this gentleman. I feel he has Mark in the palm of his hand like another grandpa, and it gives me such a comforting feeling. This man was so generous in his thoughts and words back to my family.”

To learn more about writing your donor family or your loved one’s recipient, please read our Correspondence page or contact Saving Sight at 800-753-2265.

If you are a cornea transplant recipient or donor family and would like to share your experience like Carol has, please send us a note through our Contact page.

To join the millions of Americans like Mark who signed up for the donor registry, register online at Donate Life America or at your local Department of Motor Vehicles office. And be sure to share your decision with your family and friends.

Bonnie and Charlotte: Correspondence After Transplantation

Bonnie and Charlotte: Correspondence After Transplantation

Charlotte, right, received a cornea transplant with tissue donated by Cody,
son of Bonnie (left). After years of
correspondence, Charlotte and Bonnie decided to meet each other.

Correspondence after donation and transplantation can be a positive part of the healing process for many people. Saving Sight offers donor families and cornea transplant recipients the opportunity to write to each other in a safe, positive environment. Acting as an intermediary, Saving Sight accepts the letters and then passes them on to the appropriate parties, which helps preserve everyone’s anonymity. Recipients and donor families alike have said that correspondence had therapeutic effects.

When Bonnie’s son, Cody, died in Divernon, Illinois after a car accident, he was able to donate skin and corneas. “Cody always wanted to be an organ donor,” she said. One of his corneas was received by Charlotte from Clinton, Missouri, who needed the transplant to treat a corneal infection that threatened to destroy her entire eye. Quite soon after her transplant surgery, Charlotte initiated the correspondence process with the help of Paul, her son who lived with her and cared for the family farm. Paul said his mother was eager to correspond with her donor’s family because she understood loss, having recently lost two grandchildren. “Because of that unselfish loved one was a donor and gave me a gift, I still have my eye,” Paul remembered Charlotte saying. “So she wanted to contact the family and thank them.”

With Paul’s help, Charlotte sent a letter to Saving Sight which was then passed on to Scarlett, Cody’s wife. “Scarlett didn’t feel like she was ready to correspond, so I asked permission to correspond instead,” said Bonnie. And with that, Bonnie and Charlotte began the process of getting to know each other. “Charlotte was very understanding that someone died to give her this cornea,” Bonnie recalled. “She was a really sweet lady.”

When people correspond for more than a year and both parties consent to communicating without anonymity, Saving Sight will connect the donor family and recipient so they can pursue contact on their own. Bonnie and Charlotte wrote several letters in that first year and continued contact in the years that followed.

“We talked on the phone sometimes, at birthdays and at Christmas,” Bonnie said. Eventually, Bonnie offered to visit Charlotte at her home in Clinton. “My daughter Tara and I had discussed from the time I first started corresponding with Charlotte how we would love to meet her, although we knew it would be difficult on us. However, Tara was unable to come with me so I drove there on June 16, 2012, which was Cody and Scarlett’s wedding anniversary,” Bonnie said. “I stayed at Charlotte’s house for three or four hours and met Paul. We had a wonderful visit. It was nice to have a part of Cody with her, to know that he lived on. Cody had big blue beautiful eyes, and I just loved the fact that I got to meet her and look in her eyes.” Paul said the feeling was mutual: “It meant a lot to Mom to get to finally meet the person behind the voice on the phone, as Mom was unable to travel long trips.”

Charlotte, a cornea recipient, corresponded with Bonnie, the mother of a donor. 

Despite the happiness of meeting Charlotte face to face, Bonnie also found the experience to be emotionally trying. “I held it all together until I drove out of her driveway, and then I cried all the way home,” Bonnie said. “It was Father’s Day the next day and just meeting her – she was a wonderful lady. She was very appreciative of how Cody had died but was willing to give his cornea. She never took it for granted. That’s why she wrote the letter – she wanted to know about the person who donated and his family.”

Charlotte’s daughter made quilted table cloths, and she gave one to Bonnie as a keepsake from their visit. “I cherish that,” Bonnie said. “Charlotte had health issues, and I think she knew we wouldn’t see each other again.” In April of 2013, Charlotte passed away at the age of 91, and thanks to Paul’s care, she was able to remain on the farm until a few days before her death.

Paul described his mother as having “an abundance of love that she shared with her eight children and many outside her family” and that she “was proud of Bonnie’s friendship.” Bonnie, too, looks back fondly on the trip: “I felt so fortunate to have met Charlotte. It’s hard to explain what it’s like to meet someone who has your son’s cornea. But I can’t say enough how blessed I felt by it all.”

To learn more about the young man whose generous donation brought Bonnie and Charlotte together, read Cody’s story. To learn more about Saving Sight’s correspondence process, visit our cornea donation and transplantation page.

After Loss, Mom of Two Finds Hope Through Her Donor Family

After Loss, Mom of Two Finds Hope Through Her Donor Family

After her vision returned following her cornea transplant, Mary was able to grab her camera to capture the images she had missed seeing for years.

At age 42, Mary of Emporia, KS was diagnosed with Fuchs’ dystrophy, a progressive disease in which one’s vision becomes blurred. Like many younger patients who face the disease, Mary wondered how she could juggle her family and busy career as her eyesight deteriorated.

Explained Mary, “It seemed to progress quickly, and I had stopped driving at night, which was so difficult having kids and activities. I no longer felt comfortable doing certain things at work, and I felt panicked (and a little pitiful) that was losing my vision. I even convinced my husband to move into town so that I wouldn’t have to drive home in the dark the 10 miles out that we lived.”

While Mary found ways to adapt her life and her work as a nurse around Fuchs’, a tragic turn of events made simply dealing with her vision loss no longer viable. A few years after her diagnosis, Mary put her own health concerns to the side to help her husband in his fight against cancer, which eventually took his life.

“A few months after he died, I realized my vision had gotten significantly worse, and as the sole parent, I had to be able to drive at night and had to be able to work. It was time to do something!”

In December 2010, Mary received a cornea transplant on her right eye with tissue provided by a donor family. Their gift was especially poignant after Mary’s own loss. “They are my miracle. I know the pain of their loss and am so appreciative that in the midst of their grief, they chose to make a gift that changed my life. It really hit me because my surgery was right before Christmas, and I know how hard the first Christmas is without your loved one, having just experienced that the previous year. I ached for them, and prayed that they might find peace.”

Mary’s transplant was a sight-saving success. Although her recovery required her to lie on her back for 72 hours and she endured some minor pain and irritation, her vision has improved considerably since her surgery – “It’s like having an HDTV in that eye! Everything is so clear and crisp, it’s absolutely amazing!”

Within two days, Mary was able to see the numbers on her alarm clock without glasses, and within two weeks, she no longer saw halos around streetlights as she drove in the dark. Her transplant has given her more confidence in her job and has allowed her to enjoy her favorite activities – reading, gardening, photography, and participating in church activities – in beautiful, brilliant clarity.

Today, Mary encourages her fellow Kansans to consider pledging to give the gift of sight by joining www.donatelifekansas.com.

“We don’t like to think that anything bad could happen to our loved ones or ourselves. The reality is that bad things, tragic things, can happen to good people all the time. Organ and tissue donation is a chance to transform that tragedy into a miracle. How beautiful to think that your last act on earth would be life-saving or changing for another – what a loving legacy!”

Correspondence Makes a Difference for a Donor Family

Correspondence Makes a Difference for a Donor Family

Through correspondence, Carol was able to learn more about her son Mark’s cornea recipients.

When someone loses a loved one, it’s difficult to find the good in such a heartbreaking situation. However, for many families, eye, organ and tissue donation has given them a sense of hope. And when those families hear from their loved one’s recipients, it’s particularly rewarding.

In 2010, Carol lost her 30-year-old son, Mark. Unbeknownst to the family, Mark had made the pledge to become an eye donor through Missouri’s first-person consent registry – a move that didn’t surprise Carol.

“Mark was absolutely the most loving person that we know in our family,” she said. “He cared very much about his family – about everybody. He didn’t know a stranger. Mark was never judgmental, gave everybody a fair chance, and always tried to help the underdog.”

As Carol and her family moved through the grieving process, they received a letter from Heartland Lions Eye Banks informing them Mark’s corneas had been provided to two recipients in California. Carol wrote the recipients, introducing them to her son, and soon received letters back from both individuals. One recipient in particular struck a chord with Carol, and the two began corresponding frequently.

Explained Carol, “I can’t say enough about how his words have helped me. This man just amazes me. Even in his last letter, he said, ‘Mark and I had our stitches removed and the good doctor says our vision continues to improve. We are a good fit. There was a moment or two I did feel Mark was there.’ He couldn’t have said anything better to me.”

The recipient/donor family correspondence has not only helped in the healing process for Mark’s direct family, but for his church family as well. Carol has read letters from Mark’s cornea recipient to fellow church members, helping them to find hope desperate situations and encouraging them to follow Mark’s lead by pledging to become eye and organ donors through Missouri’s donor registry.

For Carol, the Eye Bank’s correspondence program has made a difference for her family, and therefore, she urges donor families and recipients alike to consider writing their own letters.

“I know Mark is living through this gentleman. I feel he has Mark in the palm of his hand like another grandpa, and it gives me such a comforting feeling. This man was so generous in his thoughts and words back to my family.

To learn more about writing your donor family or your loved one’s recipient, please read our Connect With Us page or contact the Eye Bank at 800-753-2265.